“Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”
I’ve wondered why there weren’t any good TV shows about teachers. There are good shows about lawyers, police, doctors, etc. Why not teachers? There’s as much drama and mayhem in schools as hospitals, and schools are a place almost everyone can relate to.
But education has remained one of the last bastions of professional privledge. In times past no one questioned a doctor’s authority, but patients show up with reams of information and diagnoses, challenge their doctor’s opinions and seek alternatives. We’ve accepted that doctors, lawyers, police officers et al are fallible, and make mistakes just like anyone else.
But we struggled when it comes to education. When Johnny and Janie set off in the morning we release precious children into the care of educators and schools. How can we do that daily and accept that educators may not exactly know what they are doing?
That’s what’s behind the run of “Teacher Porn”, films from the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s that celebrated educators as hard working, under appreciated saints. Think of ‘Dangerous Minds’, ‘Stand and Deliver’, ‘Dead Poets Society’ and the excreble ‘Mr. Hollands Opus’. They maintain the fiction that ‘Teacher knows best’. But now, that’s starting to change.
Last year I watched the big budget ‘Bad Teacher’, with Cameron Diaz portraying a frighteningly bad middle school teacher, surrounded by a cast of less than perfect colleagues. Then last week the staff room was buzzing about the new CBC series ‘Mr. D’. Comedian Jerry Dee plays a high school teacher who is an incompetant bufoon. The conversation amongst teachers was how we could all see ourselves and other teachers in his portrayal.
Seems that we are starting to accept that teachers aren’t the fountains of all knowledge, and this is good for education. The more we accept the idea that students are at the centre and teachers just there to facilitate their journey, the sooner the needed shift can happen.
Some educators are threatened by this, but they needn’t be. The medical professional has changed and adapted, and so can we.